SE Road Trip – Rocket Launches & Manatees at Cape Canaveral

Leaving Miami we drove North on the coast towards Cape Canaveral.  We checked into yet another crummy Florida hotel in the lovely sounding but disappointing, Cocoa Beach.  In the evening we walked down to the beach for a bit and saw a sunset.  In true Florida style we used our campstove to boil some corn outside of our motel room door.  We went to bed a little early to rest up for our big day tomorrow, visiting Kennedy Space Center and seeing a rocket launch.

Eric was really excited in the morning, he’d been wanting to go to Kennedy Space Center for 25 years.  The museum is amazing and whether or not you have an interest in space or aircraft it’s definitely worth visiting.  The amount of incredible historical pieces, fascinating videos and mind-blowing information would keep anyone entertained.  From the moment you walk onto the grounds, you spot the ‘Rocket Garden’, a collection of old rockets from the many programs NASA has had.  From there you can visit the new Space Shuttle Pavilion and see the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis alongside the entire space shuttle program history.  A bus will take you to our favorite part, the Apollo program/Saturn V rocket center.  As you exit the bus you enter the actual Apollo Mission Control Center.  Not a replica but the real Center which has been extended to allow for an audience to watch the screens come to life and recreate an Apollo launch – very cool.

 

The actual, original mission control for the Apollo missions was turned into this re-enactment
The actual, original mission control for the Apollo missions was turned into this re-enactment

We learned on our bus ride out to the Apollo Center we had the rare chance to watch the Space X rocket launch from the Apollo Center lawn.  This spot was usually reserved for VIPs but they were opening it to the public.  After exploring the area we bought some food and beer and took a front row spot along the fence.  We felt like we were right back in the 60s.  Drinking beer, eating a cheeseburger and waiting for a rocket launch surrounded by all these buildings we had seen in old movies.  After about an hour we were jolted back to the modern day when a tweet alerted us that the launch was cancelled to do a helium leak.  Disappointing but it was still a great day.  We sucked down our beers and tried to beat the line to get back to the buses to take us to our car.

 

Our next destination was St Augustine Florida but first we wanted to drive through the Cape Canaveral National Seashore.  As we entered the protected area we saw a large gator and pulled over so Daniel could see one for the first time.  Tempting fate he tried to pet the alligator, luckily the gator decided to hiss and walk away instead of eating him.  That could have been a bummer.  We kept driving through keeping an eye on the sky, it looked like the sunset was going to be great.  While searching Google Maps for a spot to park and watching the sunset, we spotted a place called ‘manatee dock’ right in front of us.  We’d missed manatees in all the places we were told they often were spotted but we thought we’d give it one more spot.  It was a good choice because pulling up to the dock we saw at least 5 manatees rolling around in the water.  Pretty cool way to end the day.  We took some photos of the sunset and drove to our hotel in St Augustine.

SE Road Trip – Everglades

After attempting to quickly drive down to the Everglades (the horrendous Florida drivers making every effort to stop us) we managed to arrive on time to Everglades City for an airboat ride.  Everglades City is not only the best place in the world for airboat rides but has had a fascinating (but painful) last few decades, some of which is documented in the documentary ‘Square Grouper.’  We were on our way to Everglades National Park but stopping here for the aforementioned airboat ride.  It was really fun, the driver had a lot of interesting pieces of history about the city to tell us and made the ride very exciting.  We also saw our first wild alligators on the trip so far (they seem to subsist on a guide-provided diet of marshmallows.) After the boat trip we walked through the ‘zoo’ which was a disappointing exhibit of awesome animals in tiny cages.  Supposedly the new owners (same company as the airboat rides) are making plans to build new enclosures.

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